Station to station

10 June 2015

More than three quarters of UK employers are guilty of letting homemade workstation solutions jeopardise the safety and comfort of employees, according to a new European survey, commissioned by leading office ergonomics experts, Fellowes. Darryl Brunt, UK & Ireland sales and marketing director at Fellowes explains.

Despite over half of companies (62%) acknowledging that, as employers, they have a duty to influence the physical and mental health of their staff, the research has revealed that trained staff are less likely to undertake workstation assessments than non-trained staff, with 31% of employees left in charge of conducting their own self assessments as opposed to trained health and safety officers or HR managers.

Despite half of all companies acknowledging that it is the responsibility of line managers to provide a fit for purpose workstation environment, it is clear from the research that work demands, physical health and the working environment are not being correctly addressed, as 22% of employees raised concerns that they experience physical discomfort at their desk on a daily basis.

The research throws into question how equipped, skilled or trained those responsible for completing workstation assessments are in UK workplaces and how much damage is this ‘make do and mend’ culture having on the health and wellbeing of the workforce.

In over a quarter of organisations (27%), staff raised concerns that their monitor or display screens were not appropriate for their needs and more than one fifth (21%) of office based staff weren’t aware of any legal requirements when assessing a display screen.

The topic of employee wellbeing has grown in popularity over the past few years, especially with the recovery of the job market and the need to attract and retain the right calibre of employee. However, it is still evident that some businesses are overlooking the importance of their staff’s health and wellbeing needs. Creating a safe environment so an employee feels both at ease and comfortable will only improve productivity and benefit organisations in the long term.

It appears that the health and wellbeing needs of new members of staff are being prioritised over and above longer serving members, with workstation assessments only being prompted by the arrival of a new member of staff in 22% of organisations.

For those longer serving members of staff, the research revealed workstation assessments were only conducted on request in one third of companies and even then a workstation assessment would only trigger change in one in five organisations.

This latest research further supports the fact that getting the nation working well is so important for staff morale and maximising productivity in the workplace. And while 66% of employers admit that these factors do affect ergonomic purchasing decisions, only 21% of companies have purchased ergonomic products to resolve these issues within the past six months, fuelling this rising ‘make do and mend’ office culture.

However, of those companies who have invested in ergonomic products, 66% have reported seeing enhancements in the performance of their staff.

Commenting on the research results and the importance of good health and wellbeing in the workplace, Professor Peter Buckle, from the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Royal College of Art and Former President of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors, says: "Modern offices are highly complex systems. Understanding the health and wellbeing of staff in the modern workplace is an ongoing struggle for many organisations.

"Clearly the application of the discipline of ergonomics is an important part of ensuring that systems are performing at their peak whilst maintaining a workforce that is both healthy and satisfied at work.

"The appropriate selection and use of ergonomic equipment can help deliver performance enhancements but the way that work is structured and organised is also extremely important. The role of ergonomic and human factor specialists in helping to deliver this should be considered by all good organisations.”